Before the Paramount comedy “The Goods: Live hard, Sell Hard” was released in August, the Asian American blogosphere was abuzz over the extended online trailer for the movie, which showed a disturbing scene with Ken Jeong being beaten up by fellow car salesmen just for being Asian, when star Jeremy Piven gets them all worked up over the memory of Pearl Harbor. The bloggers, including Angry Asian Man and 8Asians as well as Nikkei View, covered the issue enough that it led to protests and meetings between AAPI groups with Paramount studio execs.
Those meetings led to a public apology from Adam Goodman, President and CEO of Paramount.
The timing was terrible, because the trailer was airing just before the anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin, who had been beaten to death in 1982 by laid-off auto workers who blamed Japanese cars for losing their jobs. The racist scene was edited out of the trailer. However, the scene, which includes Jeong getting beaten up and then Piven joking about covering up the hate crime, remained in the theatrical release because it was too late to pull from the movie.
The leaders of AAPI organizations who met with Paramount also believed that the offensive scene would be edited like the studio was able to do with the trailer (the revised preview takes out the most obnoxious elements, including the use of the word “Jap,” even though it keeps Jeong’s beating intact).
But the DVD was released this week and is available in stores nationwide with the offensive scene still in the movie. The studio claims the production of the DVD was too far along to change the scene.
Bill Imada of IWGroup, the marketing and communications firm that helped groups such as Media Action Network for Asian Americans and JACL, says the AAPI leadership is disappointed that the studio didn’t make the effort to edit the racist scene, but that after some canvassing, he reports that Wal-Mart said they’ll stock the DVD but not market it.
That’s a step in the right direction, at least. Now, if only other retailers would step to the plate and do the same, the national Asian American community can make a statement about our power as consumers.
However, it’s worth noting that even though Paramount blew it (and didn’t give a heads-up to the AAPI eaders they’d apologized to) over this stupid comedy, the studio learned to at least reach out to the AAPI community.
The company invited Asian American leaders including Imada to check out the upcoming movie starring George Clooney, “Up in the Air,” because of a scene that involves Asian stereotypes. But Imada reports the scene shows that stereotyping is racist, and makes a gentle point.
They appreciated the outreach to our community. And that, again, is a step in the right direction.
Here’s the trailer for “Up in the Air”:
And here’s the softened-up version of the trailer for “The Goods”: